I know I can’t prepare for everything. I still spend more time that most thinking about the potential outcomes and planning out the next steps of these potential outcomes. I don’t know why I do this but I do and I have done so for a long time. I like to always be a few steps ahead because it decreases my stress and aniexity. If I didn’t do this and get the plans written down or calendared my brain would not let me sleep and I would lie awake trying to remember all of the plans….ALL THE PLANS. But this can cause me to at times feel stuck or unable to move ahead if I have not prepared, planned, triaged, and clearly mapped out a path forward. Sometimes this can keep me from actually doing anything…I get perpetually stuck in the planning phase. Or I expel all of my energy planning and then have nothing left for the actual “doing” part of whatever I was planning. This is a habit I need to break.
I think anyone who struggles with _____ will recognize the “high” that the planning stage brings. You know you want to break whatever cycle you find yourself in. You are tired of living the way you are living and SWEET JESUS you are going to do something about it! So we plan and research, and think and write, learn and absorb, plan and plan some more. We are M O V I N G. But moving is very different from action. It’s one thing to plan, it is another to implement. My threshold for failure is VERY low…like low rider low. Ice T can’t get as low as I can. I am pretty dang good at calculating the odds and will not move into action unless I have a 90% or higher change of success. I think this threshold is an mix of biological and environmental factors that I haven’t even fully figured out yet. But when I DO move into action, I have about 5 different contingency plans ready to roll if shit hits the fan. I mean…I made 4 different color-coded budgets before closing on our construction loan so I would know going into a complete economic catastrophe that I could still make my payment, keep the lights on, by food, and gas. I also made our banker run my numbers with his people to ensure I had not missed anything- I read Jurassic Park will be a REAL thing here in a few years. PLAN ACCORDINGLY PEOPLE! My point to all of this is simple- failure is my main reason for NOT taking action and I bet it is a lot of peoples reason for never moving into action. Ironically, my fear of failure keeps me from achieving something that I really want. So in a way, my fear of failure is making me a failure. I can see that now and I don’t know why I couldn’t see that before. Failure is the BEST tool for learning- I tell my students that fail stands for “First Attempt In Learning”. There is a necessary and needed place for failure. Yet I have never been able to take my own advice. I think what helped me get over the failure hump is really understanding that my identify needs to change. If I start with my identity, the changes will stick and I will not fail.
When Atomic Habits came into my life, something clicked. I think this book, this concept, this method, this explanation of the power of habits clicked because it brought together so many of the missing pieces. Like not needing to be perfect all the time but just doing things that will show evidence of my new identity a majority of the time. When it comes to building good habits, he has 4 simple rules or guidelines that made the planning part of creating new habits kind of a no brainer for me. To create a good habit, you have to make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. These things make a whole lot of sense to me with me having to do a whole lot of thinking. So here is how this works: I want take my vitamins every day. This will be super important after surgery as I will need to take vitamins morning AND night until my labs show that I am getting all of my nutrients from my food. To make my vitamins obvious, I have moved them from a drawer in the kitchen to the counter where I make breakfast. Not only am I looking at my vitamins, but I am reminded to take them after I have eaten. Thats pretty obvious. To make taking my vitamins attractive, I need to make it a pleasurable experience. This is where my LOVE to planning and tracking come into play; I cannot tally my healthy vote of taking my vitamins in my habit tracker until I have taken my vitamins. Just the sound of my pen scratching off that tiny box gives me chills of pleasure. Mission accomplished. To make taking my vitamins easy, I prep two days in small bowls and leave them on the counter. So now I only need to open the vitamins every other day instead of every day…so easy. And if I know that my week is nuts, I will prep 5 whole days on Sunday! Crazy…I know. And to make things mentally easier for me, I remind myself that I do not have to be perfect here…I just have to do it more times than not. “If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection”(143). James…you are speaking to my HEART! Oh but wait…he also says “Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist”(164). If my husband said things like this to me we would have lots of baby’s by now…just saying. The last step, satisfaction, really comes in my ability to tally that vote in my tracker. The book does a really good job of taking about the difference between immediate rewards and delayed rewards. He says “Success in nearly every field requires you to ignore an immediate reward in favor of a delayed reward…The best way to do this is to add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run…” My delayed reward will come every week and for all my years ahead. I attend my WW workshop on Wednesday nights and if I can cast more votes for my healthy identity than not, the scale will be my reward because it will show me a weight that will be less than it was the week before. Even the same or very similar weight than the week before will be a TOTAL WIN in my book! And over the years, my weight will continue to decrease until it reaches a healthy weight- a weight that allows me to feel comfortable everywhere and feel some space in and around me. That will be complete satisfaction. After I read each section, I would sit with my notebook and think about all of the good habits I wanted to create and all of the bad habits I wanted to break. Then I picked ONE and spent some time planning. It took me about 15 minutes in total to map out my vitamin plan, which in a planners world is nothing. I could not believe how simple the concepts came to me and how easy it was for me to think of ways to implement the steps into a habit I really needed to create. So after a few days with my vitamins, I started working on another habit…then another. It became…a habit 🙂
So why the hell am I so focused on habits and identity and James Clear? Well…I guess he simply made some things super clear for me in a space and time that I had the capacity to really sit and think on some things. Making the decision to have surgery is one thing. Actually visualizing and planning what it is going to take to ensure the surgery is a success is daunting, humbling, scary, and frightening. But I am out of options. This IS my path to a healthy weight because all other paths have lead me in a very informative and enlightening circle. My weight has changed but I always seem to find the same starting line. In the past I started with the outcomes, then worked through the processes and never thought about my identity because I was too afraid to change who I am. So this time, I am starting with my identity- what I believe about myself and what I value in my life, then creating processes that support and align to that identity. I am learning the power of my votes and that I have hundreds of votes to cast each day. Not every vote has to be for healthy. Some votes can still be cast for the pizza because it’s been a day and that is ok. The outcome will reflect my votes and the votes are aligned to my identity so I don’t have to even think on that if my processes are aligned to my identity. The quote below is easy enough for me to remember when I am starring into the fridge because I am mad/bored/sad/upset/thirsty/hungry. All I really have to ask myself or go to my tracker and check is “How many votes have I cast today for my healthy identity?” If my answer is “not very many” then I will close the door or reach for an apple, or strap on my bike shoes and get my ass kicked by some super fit Peloton coach, or let my 13 pound fluffy sled dog take me for a walk.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 38. Even years are historically not my best years…it seem’s like “better” things happen in odd years. But in my 38th year I will have three major events- I will become an auntie for the second time, I will move into a dreamy home on a hill overlooking the Salish Sea, and I will begin to live life at a healthy weight. I think this will be the beginning of every year being a good year 🙂
“Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?”